Rise of the Female Gun Nut

girl gunsWhen Niki Jones, a longtime New Yorker relocated to Austin, Texas, needed a group to practice using her new concealed-carry weapon with, she was shocked that she couldn’t find a woman-friendly league. So in July 2010 she founded Austin Sure Shots, a free, women-only gun club focused on target shooting. Soon their ranks swelled to almost 300; a local firm of current and former military and police firearms instructors took the women under their tutelage, teaching them defensive shooting. After learning to shoot semi-automatic AR-15 style rifles, a dozen of the women decided to make custom versions of the gun. Niki had her AR-15 railed handguard coated white and named the gun “Snow Queen.” Another Sure Shot, Mandy, had hers painted periwinkle and decked out in daisies. Other women had their handguns custom-coated pink and decorated with cupcakes and Hello Kitty.

Spend a few minutes scrolling through the websites of gun dealers and you might be forgiven for thinking America is a nation of Gayle Trotters: women using the language of feminism to demand the “right to choose to defend ourselves,” as the gun-rights activist put it in her Senate testimony last week. Three of the top six U.S. gun-makers — Smith & Wesson, Remington, and Sig Sauer — have pages or products dedicated to the prospective female gun owner, offering smaller lightweight models, shorter trigger pulls, and grips designed for smaller hands. There are rifle cartridges designed to reduce recoil, holsters designed to fit between a woman’s décolletage, and high-end concealed-carry purses. There’s a lot of pink: pink camouflage gun cases and pink Pumpmaster Air Rifles and pink tipped bullets and pink assault rifles.

Trying to determine the exact number of women who own guns in America is, like every other aspect of the gun control debate, controversial. “We don’t have fresh data. We don’t have anything new — that’s a huge problem,” notes journalist Caitlin Kelly, who struggled to find solid, impartial data while researching her book Blown Away: American Women and Guns. Wayne LaPierre of the National Rifle Association would have you believe the number is 30 million; more conservative estimates put the number at 15 million. A 2011 Gallup survey put the number of women who reported personally owning a gun at 23 percent, as opposed to 46 percent of adult men — 10 percent more than they measured two years prior. Nevertheless, according to an aggregate five-year study from Gallup, men are…

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